Craig McDonald is a finalist of the Edgar®, Anthony, Gumshoe and CrimeSpree Awards for his first novel, Head Games, introducing Hector Lassiter, a larger-than-life crime writer. The other novels in the Hector Lassiter series include Toros & Torsos, Print the Legend and One True Sentence.
Hector Lassiter also centers highly-praised short stories that appear in three crime fiction anthologies, Dublin Noir (Akashic Books, 2006), The Deadly Bride & 19 of the Year’s Finest Crime and Mystery Stories, (Carroll & Graf, 2006) and Danger City II (Contemporary Press, 2006).
Head Games is to appear in graphic novel format from First Second Books, an Eisner Award winning imprint of Henry Holt & Company.
Craig McDonald is also an award-winning journalist and the author of two highly praised non-fiction volumes on the subject of mystery and crime fiction writing, Art in the Blood (PointBlank, 2006) and Rogue Males, (Bleak House, 2009), nominated for the Macavity Award.
Craig McDonald was also a contributor to the 2004 New York Times non-fiction bestseller Secrets of the Code.
His short stories and articles have also appeared in the Mississippi Review, Hard Luck Stories, Crime Factory, Crimespree and Thuglit.
THE HECTOR LASSITER SERIES
Head Games is equal parts road novel, caper and historical fiction: a black comedy and wistful ballad of lost America rooted in borderland myth and history.
In March 1916, Mexican General Pancho Villa raided and destroyed the town of Columbus, New Mexico. President Woodrow Wilson dispatched Black Jack Pershing and an army of 10,000 into Mexico to find and bring back Villa — dead or alive. Villa escaped, living in comfort and peace until his assassination in 1923. A short time later, someone dug up Pancho’s body and stole his head.
An American soldier-of-fortune was arrested for stealing Pancho Villa’s skull. Many believe he was hired by the grandfather of U.S. President George W. Bush. Prescott Bush was a member of the secretive Yale Skull and Bones Society.
Head Games’ narrator is Hector Lassiter, a larger-than-life crime writer who knew Hammett and Chandler … a boozing, brawling, much-married charmer who fished with Hemingway and bedded Hollywood starlets.
Now widowed and feeling his age, Lassiter recovers Villa’s head. Within hours of taking possession of the skull, Lassiter and a young poet sent to profile him for True Magazine are targets of competing fraternities, Mexican bandits and U.S. intelligence services.
The breakneck chase extends across 1957-1970 America — from the cantinas of old Mexico to the Venice, California set of Orson Welles’ noir classic Touch of Evil, to the sanctum sanctorum of Yale’s infamous Skull and Bones Society. The cast of characters includes Orson Welles, Marlene Dietrich, Jack Webb and a young and gone-missing National Guardsman named “George W.”
English N/A: Bleak House (published Fall 2007). French (Belfond); Russian (Astrel); Japanese (Shueisha). Graphic novel adaptation: First Second Books (Macmillan). Audio book: Recorded Books, USA.
TOROS & TORSOS
Hector Lassiter is a crime novelist who writes what he lives and lives what he writes. But Hector goes a step beyond: frequently forcing those around him into the tawdry and turbulent territory of his crime stories and novels.
In Toros & Torsos, Hector meets his match in the person of a mysterious killer committed to the craft of murder: a blood-thirsty provocateur who leaves a string of increasingly macabre, homicidal tableaus modeled after seminal works of surrealist art.
This startling novel takes it cue from all-too-real recent scholarship postulating the existence of a dark underground of misogynistic and possibly homicidal surrealist artists, photographers and art collectors that flourished in Europe and United States through most of the Twentieth Century. These extremist surrealists engaged in a parlor game they dubbed “Exquisite Corpse” — a twisted collaborative artistic pursuit that may have found its most infamous and sublime expression in the 1947 murder of would-be actress Elizabeth Short.
Toros & Torsos pits Lassiter, the hard-living pulp author, against the ultimate performance artist in a duel to the death extending across three decades and three continents.
The novel is set against the vivid backdrops of a killer hurricane that nearly destroyed the Florida Keys in 1935, the Spanish Civil War, post-war Los Angeles and the final days of the Batista regime in Cuba.
This wildly original noir saga also boasts a cast of characters including Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth, Man Ray, Salvador Dali and John Huston.
In a blood-limned haze of deception, murderous metaphor and devastating betrayal, nothing is what it seems and obsession and creativity collide in a wicked and unexpected climax that shakes the art world to its foundations.
All rights available ex: English N/A: (Bleak House); French ( Belfond); Mirae N (Korea). Audio book: Recorded Books, USA.
PRINT THE LEGEND
It was the shot heard ’round the world: On July 2, 1961, Ernest Hemingway died from a shotgun blast.
Hemingway was alone in his Idaho home with his fourth wife, Mary, the morning of his death. Mary first said Papa’s shooting was an accident. Later she admitted that in the wake of brutal electroshock treatments, Ernest Hemingway took his own life.
It’s 1965, and two men have come to Ketchum, Idaho to confront the widow Hemingway — men who have serious doubts about the true circumstances of Hemingway’s death. One is crime novelist Hector Lassiter, the oldest and best of Hemingway’s friends…the last man standing of the Lost Generation. Hector has also heard intimations of some surviving Hemingway manuscripts: a “lost” chapter of A Moveable Feast and a full-length novel written by a deluded Hemingway that Hector fears might compromise or harm his own reputation.
The other is Hemingway scholar Richard Paulson who sets out to prove that Mary actually murdered Papa Hemingway. Paulson believes Mary blasted herself out of a bad marriage and into her own brand of fame by blowing away her famous husband.
Paulson and his young, pregnant wife Hannah, herself an aspiring writer, have come to interview Mrs. Hemingway who believes Richard Paulson intends to write her hagiography.
Often drunk and mildly deluded, Mary nevertheless proves dangerous quarry, quickly sensing the scholar has a hidden agenda that threatens her and her late-husband. The Paulsons and Hector soon learn a mysterious stranger is stalking the streets of Ketchum and Sun Valley — a murderer seemingly intent upon seeing old secrets remain buried, whatever the cost.
Print the Legend is a literary thriller about Hemingway’s death and the patina that perceived suicide lends the author’s legend…an exploration of the sinister shadow play and co-dependence that binds authors and their academics.
It is a love story that finds the aging Hector Lassiter striving to protect Hannah as sinister forces gather around her, threatening her and her unborn child.
It is a propulsive page-turner that completes the “Hemingway Trilogy” that is the heart of the Hector Lassiter series — a startling novel that could forever change how readers regard the death of Ernest Hemingway.
All rights available ex: English N/A: St. Martin‘s Press / Minotaur, French (Belfond), Russian (Ripol Classic); Giunti (Italy).
ONE TRUE SENTENCE
Gertrude Stein famously asserted “Paris was where the twentieth century was”… the City of Lights and the birthplace of modernism.
February, 1924: An incredible exchange rate, lack of prohibition and post-war ennui have flooded the Left Bank with 30,000 Americans — the psychologically damaged members of the so-called Lost Generation. The cafés, bistros and garrets of Paris teem with would-be poets, writers and painters.
Among the throngs of expatriates are two young and unknown authors — Hector Lassiter and Ernest Hemingway, hard-living and uncompromising stylists. Both young men are mavericks and realists who stand apart from the voguish schools of creativity sweeping Paris — Cubism, Dadaism and Surrealism.
But a new vogue is gaining ground in Paris and threatening the lives of Hector and Ernest’s closest friends — a literary movement that embraces nihilism and the siren song of the void. “Nada,” a despair-driven cult, drives its disciples to acts of murder and self-destruction.
One by one, the editors of Left Bank literary magazines are being slaughtered in increasingly brazen attacks. As the killings escalate, the literati form their own improbable vigilante band to catch the killers.
Drawn into the hunt, Hector is pitched between two attractive mystery writers and a pretty, unbalanced poet…three women with hidden agendas and dark imaginations.
From the cafés of Montparnasse, through the historic graveyards of Paris and the Grand Guginol of the Catacombes, a dark conspiracy asserts itself, and the personalities and bloody secret history that inform some of the greatest short stories and novels of Ernest Hemingway are at last revealed.
All rights available ex: English N/A: St. Martin‘s Press / Minotaur (February 2011), French (Belfond).
Advanced praise for ONE TRUE SENTENCE
McDonald ‘s formidable narrative strengths are all on display here (‘One True Sentence’) – you get a sharply-wrought crime tale full of wit, wistfulness, sly satire, and authentic portrayals of Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, and a dozen other legends set against the creative maelstrom of 1920s Paris. While McDonald plucks your heartstrings his wily hero Hector Lassiter will pound out a drum roll on your short ribs, and yes, you actually will be thankful for the experience. Tom Piccirilli
Although more graphically explicit than I normally enjoy, I could not put One True Sentence down. Craig McDonald has a gift for sure-footed mysteries rooted in historical accuracy. This time out, he has recreated Paris of the 1920s and peopled it with colorful members of the Lost Generation. Witty, gritty and wry. I can’t wait to see where he takes Hector Lassiter next. Margaret Maron
“This is One Strange Book. In a good way. Vivid, remarkable characters — the historical people as well-drawn as the fictional ones! — in a rich, evocative setting, and a gruesome serial killer with one of the most unusual motives ever. Absolutely gripping!” Diana Gabaldon, New York Times bestselling author of the Outlander series
“One True Sentence is the real stuff. A story that transports you into Hemingway’s Paris as the backdrop for one hell of a crime novel. From the start I was there — walking in the Saint Germain district and along the Seine; eavesdropping in literary salons, smoky cafes, and used bookshops. The novel is sharp, smart, and fascinating. McDonald brings alive a unique time and place with not only his talent for history but style that would make his subjects proud. I read this one straight through.” Ace Atkins, author of DEVIL’S GARDEN and INFAMOUS
Praise for HEAD GAMES
Every now and then you run into a book that has it all: humor, a delightfully dark tone, a world-weary and larger-than-life protagonist and a wildly inventive storyline. Craig McDonald’s Head Games is such a novel. …A clever and only slightly over-the-top slaughter-fest worthy of James Ellroy or James Crumley. BookPage
Craig McDonald, a genuine expert on the history of crime fiction, gives free rein to all his obsessions in a debut novel that’s a berserk 1957-based caper running roughshod through the politics and pop culture of the latter half of the 20th century. …Strap in, hold on, enjoy the ride. San Francisco Chronicle
Reminiscent of James Crumley’s Milo Milodragovich PI novels, this slick caper novel touches chords of myth, history, loss and redemption just enough so you can hear echoes faintly under the gunfire. Publishers Weekly
Blurring the lines between historical fact and fiction, Craig McDonald’s triumphantly twisted first novel is one of the most unusual, and readable, crime-fiction releases to come along in years. … Crime-fiction fans looking for an original voice should check out this exceptional debut, which blends Jack Kerouac’s picaresque narrative style and James Ellroy’s noir sensibilities with a heaping helping of urban legend, subtle social commentary and a trunkful of decapitated heads. Chicago Tribune
Head Games is a magic carpet ride in a Chevy Bel Air. The end result is a trip no mystery fan should miss. Hector Lassiter is a tarnished hero with a lustrous shine. Next book please Mr. McDonald. Crimespree
Reading Craig McDonald’s HEAD GAMES was like reliving those wonderful and exciting, tequila-fired weekend border-town tours of my youth in the ’50′s. A different character, vivid and lively, waiting around every new corner of the artfully twisted plot. The time and place are captured perfectly, and story never falters as it dashes to the surprising ending. James Crumley
Few writers can blend a contemporary feel with what drew us to old-style pulp and original paperbacks: that momentum, that craziness, the thrill of the downhill slide and crash. Head Games is smart, it’s funny, and it moves like a roach when the lights go on — what’s not to love? James Sallis
“You’ve got to find what you love and let it kill you.” Jesus… I’d kill for those lines. The book just took me breath away… This is like the old master in his 70s, producing one last masterpiece to stun them… Stunned me… Over and over. The beautiful understated humour running like a sad song all through the whole novel. Ken Bruen
HEAD GAMES is a gravel and mescal cocktail, a one-day burn, a novel of genuine piss and vinegar, the kind of book you thrust on people with the wild eyes and intent of a PCP freak. Bottom line, McDonald’s a talented bastard. Ray Banks
Praise for TOROS & TORSOS
Solidly grounded in such actual events as the Key West hurricane of 1935, the Spanish Civil War and Cuba’s last days before Castro, McDonald’s imaginative tale takes an enjoyably different approach to art and murder. Publishers Weekly
Crime writer and ladies’ man Hector Lassiter (Head Games) makes a return appearance in McDonald’s outstanding second series effort. Spanning over a quarter-century and moving from Miami to Hollywood with stops in Spain and Cuba for a civil war and a revolution, respectively, this novel displays McDonald’s storytelling and writing skills. …McDonald wows with his writing, which seems effortless despite using many voices, and his book will keep readers rapt. Library Journal
In TOROS & TORSOS Craig McDonald takes pop culture, real people and invented action to create a powerful novel of suspense. It gives one the slippery sensation of time-travelling with characters you’d always wished you could meet and suddenly you can. McDonald is knowing and artful, and the suspense pushes at a lovely pace until it starts to stomp like Hemingway on an empty boat.” Daniel Woodrell
A bold, ambitious, genre-bending novel from the talented Craig McDonald. George Pelecanos
Craig McDonald’s novel is astounding, covering everything from top class mystery to a real depiction of such notaries as The Surrealists and Hemingway and literally makes them live and breathe. Such is the sheer artistry of the writing. This is granite poetry in all it’s stone glory. Cross Cormac McCarthy with Craig Holden and throw in the wizardry of Pete Dexter, then you come close to realising how amazing this novel is. Ken Bruen
In his lush, sprawling second novel, Toros & Torsos, Craig McDonald draws together both the timeliest markers of mid-century America—modernism, surrealism, film noir, pulp fiction, communism—and the eternal touchstones of classic crime literature—desire, chaos, obsession and loss. It is a bold, bloody landscape, but McDonald never lets its scale become so big that we lose sight of the lively characters at its dark center. Wily and wistful Hector Lassiter, a complicated, rueful and haunted Ernest Hemingway and dozens more draw us close to their chests, anchor us, win our favor and, in the end, break our hearts. Megan Abbot
Praise for PRINT THE LEGEND
Ingeniously plotted and executed, Print the Legend is an epic masterpiece from Craig McDonald. Beginning to end, I was riveted by this story of character, history and intrigue. Michael Connelly
The competition for the future of crime fiction is fierce, as it should be, but don’t take your eyes off Craig McDonald. He’s wily, talented and – rarest of the rare – a true original. He writes melancholy poetry that actually has melancholy poets wandering around, but don’t turn your backs on them, either. I am always eager to see what he’s going to do next. Laura Lippman
Print the Legend is a landmark book. Lassiter for me is the Flashman/ Zelig of the new era, but with a ferocious literary knowledge that is worn so lightly. A book beyond genre, stunning. Ken Bruen
With each of his Hector Lassiter novels, Craig McDonald has stretched his canvas wider and unfurled tales of increasingly greater resonance. With Print the Legend, his triumphant third novel in the series, McDonald cunningly blends high, low and pulp American culture at the mid-century. With a James Ellroy-like scope and vision of national history, McDonald takes on governmental conspiracy, Hemingway hagiography, the under-history of the FBI, the Death of the Author (literal and figurative) and the tantalizing, destructive mythologization of the Writer’s Life. While the scale is immense, McDonald’s hand is deft, and we never forget that, at its center, this is a human story, complex and bruising and deeply felt. As big as the scope, we are never far from the novel’s true, pulsing center: the sumptuously etched characters of the widow Mary Hemingway, aspiring writer Hannah Paulson and our beloved Hector himself. Megan Abbott
What critics might call eclectic, and Eastern folks quirky, we Southerners call cussedness — and it’s the cornerstone of the American genius. As in: “There’s a right way, a wrong way, and my way.” You want to see how that looks on the page, pick up any of Craig McDonald’s novels. He’s built him a nice little shack out there way off all the reg’lar roads, and he’s brewing some fine, heady stuff. Leave your money under the rock and come back in an hour. James Sallis
ROGUE MALES, Conversations & Confrontations About the Writing Life
Crime novelist Duane Swierczynski (The Wheelman, The Blonde) declares Craig McDonald’s first book of interviews Art in the Blood “A must-read collection of interviews with crime writers at the top of their game by an interviewer who’s at the top of his.”
Rogue Males is a second book of interviews with major American and European crime fiction authors, including James Crumley, Daniel Woodrell, Alistair MacLeod, Andrew Vachss, James Ellroy, Max Allan Collins, Stephen J. Cannell, Craig Holden, Pete Dexter, Randy Wayne White, Lee Child, Elmore Leonard, Tom Russell, Kinky Friedman, James Sallis and Ken Bruen.
Rights available: English ex. North America (Bleak House Books, May 2009); world translation rights ex. French (Editions Moisson Rouge).
Praise for ROGUE MALES
A fascinating follow-up to the 2006 Art in the Blood dialogue with leading crime writers, this collection by journalist and fiction writer McDonald (Head Games) underlines the “rogue male” theme by putting some of the most influential crime fiction wizards under the spotlight. Among the personalities of murder and mayhem interviewed are Elmore Leonard, James Crumley, James Sallis, Daniel Woodrell, James Ellroy, Ken Bruen and Lee Child. There are choice nuggets in the chatter between McDonald and the scribes, Leonard revealing the secret to James Patterson’s profitable corporate brand, Andrew Vachss endorsing the merits of print journalism and Ellroy labeling the late poet Anne Sexton “hot but doomed.” Wannabe writers will savor the various tidbits of information about novelization and screenwriting from veterans Max Allan Collins, Stephen J. Cannell and Pete Dexter. The troubadour section of the book has its crowning glory with a howling yuk-fest by singer/ writer Kinky Freedman and an insightful tit-for-tat by literary mavericks James Sallis and Ken Bruen. Informative, compulsively readable and mentally spicy. Publishers Weekly
McDonald, author of two novels starring raffish crime writer Hector Lassiter, is also a critic and interviewer. In Art in the Blood (2006) he compiled 20 uniformly fascinating interviews with major crime writers. The second volume covers the same territory. As a writer and an unabashed fan of the hard-boiled style and worldview, McDonald brings a knowledge and point of view to his questions that unlock the personality behind the public persona in all of his subjects. … A must for the fans of the “rogue males” who populate the edgiest crime fiction. Booklist
Craig McDonald’s outstanding interview collections provide a steady supply of insight, inspiration, and fascination, and will become cornerstones of this crime writing generation’s history. These are writers who understand and love their craft, interviewed by a writer who understands and loves his craft. If here’s a better combination than that for a rare level of insight into the minds behind the work, I can’t imagine what it might be. Rogue Males, like its predecessor, Art in the Blood, is a treasure. Michael Koryta, author of Envy the Night